COVID-19 — How will the End Look Like?

Robin Low • 26 Abril 2020
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With several countries successfully controlling the spread of the virus, we may have some hope that the best-case scenario can work in controlling the spread of COVID-19.

There are a few scenarios of the endgame, 3 to be exact, and here is how it will play out.

  1. Lockdown Measures work. (Most Optimistic)

Things may be looking promising in countries like Vietnam, Taiwan, and South Korea as the infection rate is very low and things may be looking like they have it under control.

With strict restrictions, China managed to get the infections really low and it did look like China defeated the virus, however, with some returning citizens infected, they have effectively started the second wave and lockdown in some provinces began again.

When the Lockdown Measures work and a country has a few days of 0 infections with many people recovering, the government typically will gradually reduce the restrictions and allow more businesses to restart in phases.

Movement restrictions will be lifted and more people can go out to work in certain industries and more shops will be gradually opened. However, if some infections start as a result of the lax in restrictions, the lockdown can repeat again.

2. Increasing Restrictions as initial Containment Failed.

In countries that downplayed the severity of the virus and put the economy before health, you will get increasing restrictions as more people get infected. As seen in America, there was a comparison with the flu, and people still refused to wear masks. U. K. was considering the idea of “herd immunity” but changed this decision. Sweden, on the other hand, already put a similar concept into practice, with mild restrictions and no lockdown, has now an overwhelmed healthcare system.

In some countries, they managed to do a lockdown but were hit by a second wave of returning citizens. Some infected managed to escape into the population and cause an uncontrolled spread of the contagion.

In this scenario, the endgame looks bleak and it can easily extend another 6 more months as the lockdowns get more severe to a point where they find enough restrictions for the contagion to be contained.

For businesses, this means they need to find ways to conform to each new restriction imposed to continue to operate. Businesses need to adapt fast. “Business as usual” will FAIL, as consumers in this situation will feel increasingly stressed and financially burdened. So at some point, some businesses will have to decide to close down especially if they have run out of funds.

The businesses that can adapt to the needs of the customers, and have enough budget to tough it through the period while doing their part in solving the current needs of the community will emerge the winner in the situation.

The ability to know how to pivot is key.

3. All Containment Failed. (Most Pessimistic)

This is the least likely scenario and the worst case. In this scenario, the virus mutates and becomes more deadly. More people get infected as the healthcare system is overburdened. The death rate increases sharply. The world start to crumble. The rich/poor gap will cause such friction in society that we will see unrest.

The only way to end this is by finding the vaccine as the virus mutates and infected persons can get it again.

In this scenario, many businesses trying to hang on will go down as well. There will be a depression and social unrest. A lot of change will happen, and not all will be good.

What we already know.

Surveillance will happen increasingly. In the name of public health safety, personal information will be used to track the movements of people. So be prepared, because your privacy and data will be affected. Your mobile phone data can be used to track your whereabouts. These will raise new issues about privacy and ethics, as it already has in South Korea.

With the pandemic fresh in people’s minds, air travel will be changed with lots of restrictions. Social distancing will be a part of our lives in the coming months, and a lot of restrictions will be put on travelers. Both as a preventive measure and as a new-formed habit, social distancing will prevail long after borders open.

If outbreaks happen in refugee camps, homeless shelters, prisons, foreign workers dormitories, there will be more guidelines on sanitation and how much we can pack these marginalized people into a confined space. There will also be more restrictions and regulations as a result.

Countries will have to rethink their healthcare system to manage outbreaks. COVID-19 may not be the only one on the horizon and processes need to change.

Supply chains will be redesigned. Depending on China for everything is not a solution. Logistics and automation will be pushed further as business restart after they find more alternative sources of materials (from outside China)

Countries will have to rethink local as a strategy instead of depending on the global trade to get what they do not have. Countries like Singapore need a strategy to get essential items manufactured locally if the supply chain is heavily impacted. Food security will be a high priority.

Towns and housing may need to be redesigned to have a proper quarantine set up to isolate areas that are badly affected. There may need to be put in place town designs to have essentials near each housing estate to restrict travel if the next pandemic happens again.

Be prepared. With the trend of digitizing and the ability for many businesses to work from home, real estate will also be impacted and hot businesses like co-working spaces and other “space sharing” companies need to rethink their strategies.

Things will not go back to normal. There is no normal anymore.


-- Robin Low

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